Novell Inc. will begin shipping on Tuesday a desktop version of its open source Linux operating system aimed squarely at enterprise users.

Linux Desktop 9 is built on the same code base as SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, a product used by a growing number of enterprises to run their back-office computers, Novell said Monday. The product, which will be available through channel partners, will cost US$50 per system, which includes upgrades and updates for one year.

To lure companies to the new offering, Novell has bundled several products, including its own version of OpenOffice, an open-source based office application that is compatible with Microsoft Corp.’s Office files. The bundle also includes Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox browser, Novell’s Evolution collaboration software, which incorporates e-mail, a calendar, a contact database and task lists into one application, and the company’s ZENworks Linux Management product, which allows administrators to easily deploy, configure and manage Linux desktops from a central location.

Novell has lined up microprocessor makers Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), IBM Corp. and Intel Corp. to support the new desktop product.

The product is not about a wholesale replacement of Windows-based systems but rather about identifying where and when an open-source desktop product can be a sensible, cost-effective alternative, Novell said.

Linux Desktop beta users have included call centre operators and service counter personnel, according to Novell. The company said users of traditionally high-cost Unix-based technical workstations have also shown substantial interest.

Novell has been intensively promoting Linux as an alternative to Windows ever since the company acquired Germany’s SuSE Linux AG last November.